EDITOR’S NOTE: This opinion piece was written by Mr. Benedict Villariaza, who is formerly a moderator of ZEN Otaku Honbu, which is the predecessor to this website. He is also a cosplayer who participated in several competitions, as well as a visual novel enthusiast. You may follow him on Twitter at @MoonlightBomber.
Compared to their Japanese pop-culture siblings, visual novels (VN) – an emerging medium that essentially combines anime/manga artwork with unique narratives – has a niche fandom.
Fortunately, that fandom is expanding at an unusual rate, with the recent introductions of titles such as Planetarian (from the makers of Clannad) and World End Economica (from the author of Spice and Wolf) to Steam as well as the successful Kickstarter crowdfunding campaigns for the official localizations of Clannad and the Grisaia trilogy.
Much has been said elsewhere about the expansion of the visual novel fandom worldwide; so as someone who has been in the fandom for quite a while, I will be offering my viewpoints of the visual novel fandom in the country.
I was motivated to write this article ever since I saw a thread on Reddit regarding the visual novel scene in different countries. A Filipino redditor there says that the visual novel fandom in the Philippines has been “nonexistent”.
He also added that his acquaintances who were aware about visual novels were those he “forced” into the medium all by himself.
Another point he had brought up is the lack of the language barrier. Beside the official localizations of visual novels into English, there are also fan translations of titles that has yet to be picked up by the likes of JAST USA, Mangagamer, and Sekai Project.
With these, combined with the country’s general efficiency in the English language, Filipinos have the great potential to enter the visual novel fandom without much hassle.
Another Filipino user countered the apparent “nonexistent” Filipino visual novel fandom. His basis? The Google search trends regarding visual novels, eroge (erotic games), manga, and light novels.
Based on those trends, Filipinos lead the pack in terms of regional interest as of this writing, with Singapore and Indonesia playing second fiddle.
Not wanting to keep a secret to fellow visual novel-loving Redditors of my personal knowledge of VN fandom in the Philippines, I dived into the conversation. Here is the partial transcript of what I wrote in the Reddit thread:
In terms of the Philippine cosplay scene, I have spotted some visual novel cosplayers. More likely, they knew the anime more than the source material. But I know some peeps who are aware that VNs exist.
There are also Filipino VN developers, like yours truly. Many of my associates from the International Game Developers Association (IGDA) Manila chapter are aware of VNs, and they even create these themselves. For example, one of my acquaintances is a member of the development team behind Exogenesis.”
Regarding the first paragraph, I can testify that by my ten years’ worth of going to local conventions, I spotted some visual novel cosplayers, but not to the scale of Naruto cosplayers.
I saw characters like Ayu from Kanon, Misuzu from AIR, several versions of Saber from Fate/Stay Night, several from Clannad, Shuffle!, Chaos;Head and To Heart 2 among others. I also dabbled in cosplaying visual novel protagonists myself.
Regarding the second paragraph, the Manila chapter of the IGDA has several developers who do acknowledge visual novels, which can be classified as games due to the differing standards of what an actual game should comprise of.
And for those who are not aware of Exogenesis (full title: Exogenesis: Perils of Rebirth), it’s a VN about several people trying to survive in post-apocalyptic Japan, including the main character who tries to find an artifact that can reverse time and undo the death of his sister.
It has been successfully funded via Kickstarter, and it has even gotten the blessing of Kotaro Uchikoshi, the creator of the Zero Escape series.
Kwan, the developers behind Exogenesis, consists mainly of Filipinos. Furthermore, with the proliferation of the Python-based Ren’Py game engine, anyone can make their own visual novel, Filipinos included.
Another thing I forgot to mention in the Reddit thread is the fact that a handful of visual novel-based anime has been aired on Philippine television.
TV5 aired the first Clannad anime series, while Hero TV aired anime adaptations of Happiness!, Wind: A Breath of Heart, Utawarerumono, Da Capo season 1, Hanihani: Operation Sanctuary, and Rumbling Hearts (Kimi ga Nozomu Eien).
With the power of the Internet, Filipino anime fans can make these anime titles their gateway to actual visual novels.
With the anime adaptations of The Fruit of Grisaia and Dramatical Murder having finished their initial Japanese runs and waiting to be picked up by local networks, more and more fans will have their interests piqued by these titles and more.
To conclude this piece, the Philippine visual novel fandom is currently a tiny subset of an already tiny fandom, but expect colossal expansions as time goes by.
Edited by Red Mendoza
The views and opinions expressed by the writer do not necessarily reflect the views of Anime Pilipinas, its members, partners and colleagues. If you have comments or reactions, please email us at [email protected].